Like a lot of people, I’ve been closely tracking the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a lot of useful resources for keeping track of what’s happening with COVID-19, but there’s also a lot of misinformation. I wanted to put together a collection of the things that I’ve found to be useful, and more importantly accurate.
This is mostly for my own benefit, but I thought other people might find it useful as well. If you’re aware of something that belongs on the list, tell me about it on Twitter or email me (my Twitter username @ Google’s email service).
The Wirecutter is a product review site. They’ve had great coverage of COVID-19 related things, including product recommendations for sanitizing, how and what to clean, and more. Worth the time to check out.
I can’t add much to this that the title doesn’t already tell you. I’ll point out this bit though, which I’ve been saying for weeks:
Yes, the virus only kills a small percentage of those afflicted. Yes, the flu kills 10s of thousands of people annually. Yes, 80% of people will experience lightweight symptoms with COVID19. Yes the mortality rate of COVID19 is relatively low (1–2%). All of this true, but is immaterial. They are the wrong numbers to focus on…
This is a good visualization of the current state of things. Johns Hopkins has been tracking this disease for quite a while, and has made the data available to other organizations. I look at this regularly just to keep a pulse on things. If you’re into the nerdery behind this, the doctor who made this has put up a great behind-the-scenes look.
Mantained by Wolfram Research, this is based on the data from Johns Hopkins, but presented slightly differently and with more ways to view the data. If you are a Wolfram user, you can create a copy of the notebook and explore the data yourself.
Financial Times has some great coverage of the pandemic, with visualizations that illustrate how this is unfolding. Their reporting is usually behind a paywall, but they’ve made this coverage free. Their charts are concise and informative.
Original reports were that this was largely a disease the affected the elderly and those with underlying conditions. While they make up the majority of deaths, many younger people end up sick enough to need intensive care. There are also reports of some people who recover but have a 20-30% reduction in lung capacity. It may or may not be permanent. The point is, recovering from the illness doesn’t mean you escape unscathed.
Things you can do to help
» Stay home, if at all possible
Social distancing is the only way to curb the spread and flatten the curve.
There are likely places near you that are helping to feed families in need, just ask around. Additionally with many schools shut down, there are lots of kids who may have been eating at school and now don’t have enough to eat. Many areas have programs that are helping provide meals for these kids. You can donate money or time.
This is a great idea, especially for those that live alone. There are lots of dogs that need a home, and even if you can’t give them a permanent home, you can get them out of the shelter and enjoy the company of a furry friend.
Last Christmas, Nathan Seidle’s wife gave him a second-hand safe she’d found on Craigslist. It was, at first glance, a strange gift. The couple already owned the same model, a $120 SentrySafe combination fire safe they’d bought from Home Depot. But this one, his wife explained, had a particular feature: The original owner had locked it and forgotten the combination. Her challenge to Seidle: Open it.
Another travel related tip, this one for using Shortcuts. I’ve done something similar, and it’s a life saver. I’m generally a bit anxious when traveling anyway, and I find that having a detailed checklist for packing (almost 100 items on mine), as well as other things that have to be done, makes a huge difference in my level of anxiety.
As a heavy user of the 2018 12.9” iPad Pro, I’m keenly interested in what iOS 13 will bring. Redesigning the home screen to be more functional is high on my wish list. Jason Snell has a great take on this at Macworld.
I don’t know how radical a makeover Apple’s planning for the iPad home screen, but I hope it will provide us with more than a new view into the same old collection of apps. I like my iPhone home screen to be simple, but it’s small. My iPad screen is bigger than the one on my MacBook—it deserves to host a home screen that’s got more functionality and density than the one the iPad has suffered with for its entire existence.
The Big List of Naughty Strings is an evolving list of strings which have a high probability of causing issues when used as user-input data. This is intended for use in helping both automated and manual QA testing
I’m not iPad-first, but I’m definitely using it for more tasks that I would have used a Mac for a few years ago. Writing this, for instance.
Before the iPad Pro debuted in late 2015, transitions from Mac to iPad were extremely scarce. The iPad’s hardware and software were both far too limited to compel many switchers. The software has advanced since that time – thanks to Split View, drag and drop, and Files, it’s far easier to work on an iPad than before – but there’s plenty more progress still to be made. The hardware, however, is where the iPad has shined most, especially with the newest iPad Pros.
Github Actions is really intriguing, and I’m excited to get my hands on it. It’s not enabled for my account yet, but once it is I’m going to dive in and automate a bunch of things, starting with the publishing of this blog (which I currently do with AWS CodeBuild).
While I wait paitently-ish, I’ve collected some links to things I’ve read about it.
A fairly common task, I suspect: automating the publishing of content when it’s pushed to Github. I’ll be doing this soon myself. Even if it’s not something you need, this is a good intro to what you can use Actions for.
The iPad Pro is starting to play a bigger role in my photography. When I went to Florida on vacation this summer I didn’t take my laptop at all, only my iPad Pro. There are still some awkward bits about working with RAW files on iOS, but overall it’s become capable of handling a lot of things. Also, I’m starting to build/acquire a bunch of iOS shortcuts now. It’s so easy to build them, and I’ve already found a number that I’m using daily.
Once upon a time, I had a blog. This was in the days before social media, mostly. I’d occasionally write some longer things, but often times I’d just share links to things I found interesting. Sometimes I shared pictures. I even did a series of interviews at one point. It was never a terribly popular blog, but that wasn’t really the point. It was a creative outlet for me, a chance to work in a different medium - prose instead of code.
I read other people’s blogs as well, which were often the source of the things I found interesting. First with Bloglines, then Google Reader, I followed hundreds of like-minded people and read the things they wrote. It was a simpler time.
Social Media and the Demise of the Blog
Along came Twitter, which was the first social media network I joined, though it was far from the first. It was new and exciting. I enjoyed following people that were interested in the same sorts of things that I was. Twitter at the time had earned a reputation for being banal - mostly people talking about what they were eating for lunch - but nerd twitter wasn’t like that at all. It was a continuous stream of people sharing things they found interesting or posting links to what they’d done. Sometimes it was discussions between people on an interesting topic, discussions that were a lot harder to have in other mediums such as blogs.
Twitter made it trivial to share links and small snippets of daily life. Inevitably, the arrival of new content on my blog slowed. A little at first, but shortly it became a trickle before it stopped altogether. More social media arrived: Facebook made it easy to share things with friends and family, Instagram made sharing photos fun. There was almost no reason to use a blog anymore. I wasn’t alone, a lot of the blogs I read at the time are no more. The people aren’t gone, they’re just posting their thoughts elsewhere.
And Now Here We Are
Fast forward a few years (ok, it’s more than a dozen since this story began). I still use Facebook and Twitter, but noticeably less than I once did. I’ve come to see social media as the junk food of consumption. It tastes good at the time but leaves you feeling unsatisfied. There are still good things there, but they’re increasingly harder to find and you have to wade through a lot of garbage to find them.
I’ve also been missing my creative outlet. I had once enjoyed writing longer pieces, explaining how I’d solved a problem, reviewing a book I’d read, and introducing people to something I’d discovered. That wasn’t really possible in 140 or even 280 characters, not in any meaningful way. I’d also taken up photography as a hobby, and while Instagram and Facebook are fine for sharing that sort of thing, neither is a great forum for it.
Ultimately, I want a digital place to call home, where I control (and own) the content and how it’s presented.
A look around the internet shows I’m not alone. Cal Newport, an author I enjoy who is decidedly anti-social media, has been making the case for blogs. Jeremy Keith is as well, and others too numerous to mention. Countless others never lost the habit and didn’t succumb to the siren call of communicating to the world exclusively in bite-size content.
A Phoenix Rises From the Ashes
So I built a new website. The technical details about what it is and how I built it are a story for another post, but now that it’s up and running this will be the place where I post most things. Links/photos/longer posts will be here, and then I’ll share them on social media. I want to own my own writing, for better or for worse, and there’s really no other way to do that other than your own website at your own domain.
The new blog and this very blog post were actually started a couple of years ago, but that’s how side projects go. This was never a top-of-mind project, but something I’d tinker with from time to time. Life’s a lot busier than it was a dozen years ago, and my attention span isn’t what it used to be (whether social media is partially to blame for that is a topic for another day). But no matter, it’s done now.
This is definitely a work in progress. I brought over most of the content from the earlier versions of this site, but not all of it. Some of that content has been reviewed and revised to correct typos, formatting issues, and dead links, but that will take a while and so if you spend any time in the archives here you’re likely to find all of those things. If you do, feel free to let me know (via Twitter, I suppose, or Github if that’s more your thing.
I usually take a lot of pictures in a given year, and 2018 was no different. Out of the thousands of pictures I took, these are my favorites. Most are taken with my main camera, a Canon 6D, but some are moments captured with my phone.